On Body Image, Weight Loss, and Self Acceptance

What really motivates you to love yourself? Does anything?

We're going to touch on something a bit deeper than makeup & hair today, guys. A friend of mine posted this Huffington Post article on her Facebook page and started a bit of a discussion in the comments, so it's on my mind this morning. I'll tell you this now, before I get into it: I don't know yet what the point of this post is going to be. There may not be one.

There's a huge movement going on right now about loving yourself. After years and years of media and society telling women that they need to be skinny to be beautiful, or have a perfect face, or gorgeous hair, finally people are getting that this is actually damaging women. That women are dealing with lifelong self esteem issues, depression, self-hate, and judgement of others because of this message. Finally, people are getting that this is a dangerous message to send.

Dove has been a major contributor to this movement with their Real Beauty campaign, and a few months ago they made this video that I think really affected a lot of people. It was a really strong realization for a lot of women that the way you see yourself is a lot harsher than the way others see you!

Related: On Feeling Pretty

This year has probably been the most important year of my life in terms of taking strides to learn how to love & accept myself inside and out. I've been "overweight" (though I don't think anyone would call me fat) for a few years now, and I've spent a lot of time wanting to be skinnier and putting an effort toward making that happen (hello, Weight Watchers). The thing is, I start a diet, or I start a new exercise routine, and pretty quickly I lose the motivation to do it. For the most part, that's an issue in itself, but I struggle a lot with the part of me that says "You should exercise more" and "You shouldn't eat what you eat" or "You should eat less." Should is a dangerous word. Yes, I would love to lose weight, but am I placing standards for loving myself? "I'm only worth something if I'm 20 pounds lighter than I am right now." How ridiculous does that sound?

[Side note: I think people struggle with the term "loving yourself." It's not easy to love the part of you that eats everything in the pantry on your day off while you watch television all day. What I mean is caring for yourself, emotionally, the way you would for someone you love. Understanding yourself and treating that part of you with tenderness and concern, instead of hatred and disgust. The hatred and disgust is easier, unfortunately.]

I discovered Isabel Foxen Duke by accident, but I love her message. It's not about the food or the diets, it's not about what you should or shouldn't eat, it's about your relationship with food. It's about the part of you that says "I need to go on a diet." She mostly speaks to emotional eaters, but the message is essential: changing your relationship with food will change what you eat. You don't have to count calories or cut things out, you just have to stop giving food power over you. Read her blog for more on that subject - it's an interesting perspective, one that makes complete sense to me.

Her blog has made me reassess my motives. Why do I feel like I need to go on a diet? Usually, it's that I don't like myself the way that I am now. There's the problem. And what I'm learning is that in most cases, that problem goes a lot deeper than just what you look like. If that is the case - if the "not liking yourself" is about more than just what you look like - then losing the weight is not going to make you like yourself more. So, for that reason, for about a year now, it's been a constant goal of mine to learn how to love and accept myself on the inside, too. To be fully and completely myself, unafraid of others' judgement, confident in who I am and what I believe.

In the course of this process, the number on my scale has gone up to the highest it's ever been.

But here's how I think this is going to go: when I learn to love myself (and the struggle to do it consistently will be lifelong, I think, but will get easier), I will treat myself the way I think I deserve to be treated. I will exercise consistently because my body needs it, and I want to give my body what it needs. I will eat healthy foods more consistently because I want to take care of myself. And then, my body will find its perfect weight, whatever that is. Until then, I can't be concerned with the number on the scale.

I think this is an incredibly important process for women, learning to love yourself. I love that it's a widespread message now. I hope that major beauty companies and celebrities and regular women will continue to push society to change beauty standards.

And for you, beautiful: I hope that you can learn that you are marvelous. It's a terrifying journey but it's one that is worth it. You are more than what you look like, and I hope that you love and accept every party of your being, inside and out.